Saturday, July 31, 2010


What a morning! I was ably assisted today by my friends Marcia and Diane. We took M’s spiffy black Audi convertible—what a guy magnet that car is. At one sale a young woman told us, “You’d better keep an eye on your car. My husband is about to drool on it.” First stop, the bagel place. Next stop—the latest installment of Mikey the insurance guy’s moving-to-Hawaii sale. Hmmm, I may have to add a whole category for Mikey posts.

He spotted me in the car when we were half a block away and started waving. I waved back, while filling in Marcia and Diane on my previous Mikey encounters. By the time we parked and were getting out of the car he had his head stuck in the front door and was calling to his wife, “The librarian’s here!” As you may recall, I bought a little rocking chair from them a couple of weeks ago that had belonged to the wife’s aunt, which seems to have given me family status. Guess it pays to be a relative (I've heard of shirttail cousins, but a rocking chair aunt??) because today he wouldn’t even take our money. At first I didn’t see anything, but kept looking and ended up with some things to give away as prizes. Looking into my crystal ball, I see…a children’s librarian with a bunch of kids…they are doing something fun…yes, they are making stick puppets! Over 1,000 of them, since that’s how many craft sticks I carried off.
Also scored this little curio cabinet
and a set of drawers that I figured would be useful to corral stuff on someone’s desk. But the more I look at it, the more I think it might be MY desk.
Diane made out like a bandit. She was looking for stuff for her yard, so Mikey gave her this great wrought iron trellis
a basket full of garden hand tools, some wind chimes and one of those angel silhouette things cut out of metal that you poke into the ground.

The last thing I noticed was a plastic bag stuffed with something, so I peeked in. White cloth. “Take those,” said Mikey. “Those belonged to my wife’s aunt.” The aunt whose rocker I have? “That’s the one. It’s old napkins or something.”

Okay, I'm a sucker for vintage linens, and if I have the rocker it seemed like I should have whatever this was too. So I grabbed it and brought it home. Worst case scenario I would have some new old stuff to use for cleaning rags, right? We will return in a bit to the bag o’ mystery cloth.

Around the corner from Mikey’s we spotted another sale. Several twenty-somethings lightening their load. Marcia found a pretty paper-covered storage box for fifty cents. She almost passed it up because a corner of the lid needs repair but then she smacked her forehead and came to her senses. Two inches of tape will fix it, and the last similar box she bought was from Home Good and it was six bucks. I was checking the rest of the stuff on the driveway while she bought her box. They had a bunch of toys, and a kid about ten years old asked the price of a nerf gun. Very seriously one of the young men said, “It's a dollar, but you know you have to be eighteen to buy a gun.” The kid gave him a give-me-a-break look and got a dollar from his mom. They took his money, but he got a stern warning to use it carefully. Guess the nerfs in his neighborhood better look out.

I picked up a little decorated notebook (more on that in a moment too) and when I turned around, Diane was looking at a wrought iron chandelier. A couple of the clip-on shades were battered, but it was pretty darned nice. “I need a bigger one for my dining room,” she said, “but…” I heard one of the young women say, “The light thing is fifty cents.” “Diane, it's fifty cents,” I told her. She still seemed undecided. “I'll buy it for you,” I said, and did. By the time we got back to the car, she was smacking her forehead and saying how much she loved it. In fact, we talked about it all morning. The only thing that could have made it better would be if it had been at Mikey’s sale, since he would no doubt have given it to us for free. But fifty cents is pretty darned close.
Is that not a fabbo find?

So now we started to get back in the car and realized that three full grown women, a trellis, a curio cabinet, desktop drawers, a decorative box and a chandelier are quite a load for a sports car. We decided we’d run back to my house, about three miles away, and drop our load. But first we had to stop at one more sale we passed. Which turned out to be nothing but crap, and Marcia got stung by a bee. At least we think it was a bee. The only evidence was the sudden intense pain and the nasty stinger I had to pry out of her skin. It was actually a bit scary. She started getting pains down her arm, then up her neck. But we made it to my house and I gave her a dose of a homeopathic remedy I use for stings (though it's usually mosquito bites) and soon she was much better. Whew!

Off we go again. I don’t think I've ever had a morning where I had to drop off a load in less than an hour—and between us at that point I think we had shelled out a total of $2.

We made a few more scores. Diane found a cute pink cotton cardigan and some candles. We both picked up some CDs. I got a length of white cotton gauzy fabric to use on my patio to shade the table—it gets a lot of sun during the day through the lathe pergola over it, so I'm going to hang this for the rest of the summer. I'll get a picture after it's up.

We encountered a few dogs; this adorable puppy absolutely would not stand still.

Cute little Roxy the beagle wanted to mingle with the shoppers, and kept up a constant chorus of small whines.
I couldn’t help wondering when I saw this guy if they’d been expecting him to be larger when they bought the cushion.
He had a very settled air, and I asked his owner if he were elderly. The guy laughed. “He’s only two and a half, but he always acts like he’s ancient.” And his name? Lightning. They must have expected him to be faster too.

Had one more pleasant encounter before we headed off to breakfast. We found a sale on a cul de sac, and the house on the end of the street was where we scored a very large number of kumquats almost two years ago. Even better, the homeowners were out working in their yard, so I went over and we renewed our acquaintance. Had a very nice talk—and better still, we’re invited back to pick kumquats again! My husband will be so excited when he hears he gets to make more marmalade. No, seriously, he loves the stuff and has been savoring the last batch he made.

So I got home from our adventures and started looking at my loot. When I added everything up, I had spent two bucks. Paid nothing for two CDs; Diane bought them for me since I had bought a chandelier for her.
The notebook from the chandelier sale

which is going to be a DOOR PRIZE at my Shopping on Driveways presentation this coming Thursday!
Come on down, we can share our garaging stories and strategies, and who knows, there might be other door prizes!

Then my eye landed on the plastic bag from Mikey’s wife’s aunt. The first thing I pulled out was this vintage piece. Small tablecloth? Needs a good oxy soak, but it's okay. No biggie.

I pulled out more. And more. And more. A couple of things aren’t old, a napkin and a fingertip towel from China. But some of it amazes me. I wish I were more expert with linens. I can recognize handwork, but I've seen exquisite handwork from China, so I'm not absolutely positive about the age of some of the pieces. But I think it's mostly old, and that someone in the Mikey family was an amazing needleworker.

Drawn work, cut work, picot crochet, needlelace. Some of the scalloped edges even have scallops of their own!
Many of the pieces are probably napkins, but there are 4 linen placemats, 11 pieces that might have been finger towels with needlelace people on both ends

7 of this, 5 of that…I believe there are 72 pieces in all. I really don’t know what I will do with it all. I'm sure that’s the dilemma Mikey’s family had: what to do with exquisite work that no longer fits your lifestyle. Of course, most people have no idea the skill level something like this required.

Maybe I'll edge-stitch pieces together to make curtains for the guest rooms in our retirement house. I'll think of something, and if you have ideas let me know! Rest assured they will not end up in the rag bag or the landfill.

After all, I owe to Mikey’s aunt to give them a good home.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I bought a volcano today.

I know, that sounds like I fell for one of those “we have a bridge we’d like to sell you” scams. But no. My volcano came from a sale where a cute little girl was waving a “Yard Sale Here!” sign around to get folks to pull over. How could I resist. Nor could I resist my volcano.
It's a lamp, with a flickering red LED light in the top, and the little plastic bubble thingies erupt out of the mouth of the volcano. Unfortunately not a terribly active volcano. The lava bubbles come up in a sporadic, desultory manner. And it needs some fresh batteries. But it will be fun on some children’s librarian’s desk.

And I get to claim I bought a volcano.

Speaking of librarians’ desks, this bubble lamp I bought a few months ago has been a huge hit.
The angel fish just hangs out at the bottom, while the others race up and down, but the children’s librarian who won it tells everyone it's getting a spa treatment or taking a nap.

I started off at a neighborhood sale in a townhome community. Only a few sales and most were way overpriced. I asked at one how much they wanted for a glass terrarium. “Three dollars,” said the elderly mother in a raspy smoker’s voice. “Five dollars,” said her middle aged daughter at the same time, pitching her voice somewhat louder. She went on to tell me about which very exclusive store in Newport Beach it had come from. It might well have been worth five bucks to someone (though not to me), but I just smiled and bit my tongue and did not say, this is not an exclusive store, this is a garage.

These kids were having a good time trying on hats.

Smart kids too—they were buying hats at the sale where stuff was a quarter, not five bucks.

Not long after this I met up with my friend Linda, who was out garaging for the first time since having knee surgery. She’s doing great, and we talked so long that another shopper assumed we lived there and started asking us prices. Then another lady walked by with her dog.
This is Brio. She’s a Bearded Collie. Beardie owners are always impressed when you know what kind of dog it is. Brio is twelve, a former agility champ, a therapy dog, and a dedicated avocado thief. In fact she had some green stuff on her face that we thought was avocado, but turned out to be a leaf. Brio is moving to Texas soon. Lucky Texas!

Also met Dante, a chocolate lab. He’s having his first birthday next week.

I spent a whopping three bucks today. Besides the volcano, I got a CD for the hubs
and a cute snowman candle holder for a colleague who loves snowmen

and a Lego calendar thingie to give away.
Linda got the deal of the day though, and she didn’t even see it. I spotted it sitting on a couch. A little negotiating on price and it was hers.
She’s an elementary school music teacher and has all the kids do the lion dance in January. They will be thrilled to have a real lion-dance mask thingie. And I'm sure the lion is glad to have a good home.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Hot. Finally. I know most of you will want to kill me when you hear this, but until earlier this week it's been downright cool here. I was getting awfully tired of gray skies every morning. But now suddenly it is summer and we get to complain about the heat along with everyone else. I actually did the last part of the morning’s driving with the top up on my car and the AC on, so you know I was roasting!

It was on the sunny side of the street in a neighborhood sale that I got into conversation with three young women. A lot of items with ladybugs were there, waiting for new homes, and we talked about the danger of letting people know you collect something. Often you end up with…well, a yard sale’s worth of stuff you don’t need. “That doesn’t really happen to me,” said the one with the English accent. “My name is Lamb, so I collect lambs, and they’re all over England but you never see them here. I mean, if you buy a farm set there it always includes sheep, but here it's always cows and pigs and cockerels.” I laughed and said that they’re not cockerels here, they’re chickens, roosters, and one of her friends looked relieved. “I was wondering what the heck cockerels were.”

We chatted for a while about language differences and the trouble you can get into if you don’t know for instance that what we call an eraser the English call a rubber. Turns out they are elementary school teachers, so that particular one is worth knowing! Miss Lamb teaches third grade. Isn’t that perfect? You would remember third grade your whole life, having a Miss Lamb for your teacher with her cool English accent.

They had one of those kit thingies with various bath products, and I asked if it had been a gift. “Oh my god,” said one, “are you a teacher too?” I explained my “if there were no gifts, there would be no garage sales” philosophy, but added that I used to be a school librarian in a fairly posh private school. I was absolutely amazed at the (yup, I'm just going to say it) crap you were given for Christmas. “I'd rather have a two dollar card for Starbucks,” said one “than a ten dollar thing of bath salts when I only take showers.” “Yes, or school supplies, or a book for the library.” (Parents, take note for when next gift-giving season rolls around!)

By now we were all waving our hands around and talking a mile a minute. I hope no one was trying to buy anything from their sale about then because none of us would have noticed.

I didn’t stay out as long as usual because of the heat (I could hear my pool calling my name all morning) but still managed to spend $7.25. The quarter was for this cube of sticky notes.
“I never used to need these because the realtors all dropped notepads on your porch,” I said. “Yeah, those long ones,” the woman answered. “They were great for grocery lists. Boy, you knew the economy was bad when those disappeared.” Staying in the stationery realm, I found a Harley Davidson notebook thingie for a certain Harley-riding relative of ours.

I think it's hilarious that you can buy Harley stuff at Hallmark.

Found a cute angora sweater that has already been felted! “We won’t talk about who put that in the washing machine,” said the mom, rolling her eyes toward her teenage daughter.
This acrylic pitcher still has the sticker on it.
I continue to pick up prizes for my colleagues in our summer reading program. Here are this week’s:

The little frames came from a sale that had several Pooh items. One was a music box that another lady was looking at. “It's only four dollars,” the seller explained, “because you need to glue the head back on.” Sure enough Tigger was missing his head, but it was there waiting for reattachment. When I pulled out my camera we all thought having Tigger hold his head would be a good idea.
I also picked up a pair of simple silver earrings from her. They looked okay but a little rub-up with some toothpaste (my silver polish of choice) made them shiny again.
My last two buys were of pieces of clothing. I no sooner had the thought “I wish I could find some cool unusual clothing today” when I saw what looked like a bedspread on a heap of clothing. But it's really some kind of drapey top. It has sleeves, and pockets in the side seams; the back is long and full and cut on the bias. The front has a part that goes over your head and parts that hang down. I'm going to have to play with it, though if anyone would like to chime in with advice I'd be grateful. Buy hey, it cost fifty cents. If I can't figure out a good way to wear it, it can be a bedspread.
This is my other clothing find. I definitely won’t be wearing this one, but I could not go off and leave it there.

The only story I could get for it was that it had been a gift from friends whose family were world travelers, so this could have come from anywhere. I'm leaning toward somewhere in Europe, maybe the Balkans, what do you think? From the trim and the fact that it's handmade, I wonder if it was something like part of a folk dance costume. What I find really endearing is that someone made an inner pocket from this completely unrelated fabric.
I think the pocket material has a look of the Sixties, but I'm just guessing. I'd love to resell this piece, but even if I can't find it a new home, I had to buy it. It was lonely, hanging on a rack with pieces from Gap and Target that don’t speak the same language.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


If you live in Southern California (or are vacationing here in August), please join me for a talk I'm giving on our favorite topic--shopping on driveways!

It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm hoping for other yard sale devotees to come and help me convince the newbies that this is the best way to spend Saturday morning.

Can't wait to see you!

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